The Strange Habits Of A Traveler

The Strange Habits Of A Traveler

By |2016-07-21T23:57:56-04:00May 21st, 2010|Personal Stuff|40 Comments

Why is it that whenever I return to the US I instantly stop feeling like a traveler? While my traveler’s mindset certainly does help me view these familiar surroundings in a new light, just as Tom pointed out in the comments of my last post, in the end, something just feels different.

However, this morning, while putting on my shoes moments before stepping outside, I think I finally discovered the root of the issue. And it all has to do with juggling socks.

For some bizarre reason, and I do this religiously while traveling, within minutes of waking up each morning, I pull out three, balled-up pairs of socks from my backpack (if a pair is dirty I’ll use a ball of tissue in its place) and start juggling. I usually walk around the room while juggling, trying a few nifty behind-the-back and under-the-leg tricks before attempting my most daring trick, juggling non-stop as I switch from a standing position to a sitting one and then back to standing again. And then, all of a sudden, after I’ve had my fill of morning clown activity, I put the socks back into my backpack and, with blood flowing and muscles loosened, I get ready to begin my day.

But the strange thing is that I haven’t done this once since arriving back in Florida one week ago. I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop, I just stopped naturally as if my brain won’t let me partake in this travel habit while I’m in my home country. And missing this morning routine is one reason why I don’t feel like a traveler at the moment.

But there’s more than just juggling socks. Actually, the more I thought about this odd situation, the more I realized how many other strange travel habits I not only have, but that have disappeared as soon as I returned to US soil. In fact, the list of these habits is much longer than I would ever have imagined and after re-reading it several times over, I also can’t help but wonder…

Am I really that weird of a traveler? I guess you’ll be the judge.

Here are a few more of my strange travel habits:

  • Sleeping under a blanket – Only when traveling do I need to sleep under a blanket, no matter how hot it may be in the room. I simply can’t fall asleep otherwise. Once, I visited the Indian town of Bodhgaya during the hot season, where the temperature hovered around 120 degrees, even at night. And when I asked the manager of the guesthouse for a blanket, he explained that he didn’t have anything more than an extra sheet. I didn’t sleep that night at all and had to buy a thicker, more blanket-like cloth in town the next day and I slept perfectly fine after that.
  • Change of voice – Many other travelers I’ve traveled with, and even many of my friends from around the world, seem to be highly amused by the way my voice changes whenever I’m trying to speak a foreign language. Apparently (and by apparently I mean, yes, it does happen but I don’t exactly want to admit it), my normally deep voice turns into some sort of barely-audible, squeaky feminine voice that has been compared to the ‘whispering of a frightened 7-year old girl’. It’s no surprise then that I’ve never exactly fully mastered another language.
  • Walking while brushing my teeth – I haven’t done it once since my return to the US a week ago, but I’ve done this every single day I’ve ever spent traveling abroad. After putting toothpaste and a few drops of water onto my toothbrush, I just turn around and go for a walk. While brushing my teeth I’ll walk around the room, around any rooms nearby, back and forth along hallways and even up and down the stairs. And it doesn’t matter if I’m in my own apartment, in a hotel room or using a shared bathroom at a hostel. If I stop walking, I stop brushing my teeth and so I must keep my feet moving at all times. (This habit did prove unbelievably useful one time in Thailand.)
  • Tapping the beat to a song – Whenever I get nervous while traveling, I start to tap my thighs to the beat of an imaginary tune, all in an attempt to portray some sort of confidence and comfort that I may be lacking at the time. But usually I’m too nervous to actually think of a real tune and so I just randomly hit away at my legs. And what is perhaps even stranger is that I always use my wrists, not my fingers or palm, to beat out the rhythm, which in the end, makes me look absolutely ridiculous and not at all like a confident and casual person. Maybe one day I’ll share a video of this!
  • Om Mani Padme Hum – On my first ever trip to India back in 2001, I bought a silver pendant that I’ve now worn around my neck ever since, taking it off only a handful of times over the past 9 years. On this pendant is a Tibetan prayer – Om Mani Padme Hum – which is a prayer for the compassion and happiness of all living beings. The strange part is that every time I cross a border into a new country, I find myself grabbing a hold of the pendant in my right hand and repeating the phrase Om Mani Padme Hum three times to myself. I have no idea how or when this ritual actually started but I now do it automatically every time I enter a different country.
  • Packing & Re-packing – When it’s time for me to move on from one city, town or village to another city, town or village, I always pack my backpack the night before so that I will be ready to go the following day. However, almost every time, upon waking up in the morning in order to catch my bus, train, boat or plane, I’ll empty out my backpack and then immediately re-pack everything once again. And then, I’ll repeat the same process all over again one more time. I’m not too sure why I do this either, but I’ve yet to allow myself to just leave my stuff scattered around, unpacked, until the morning. I just feel the need to pack my bag at night, despite knowing that I’ll do it again, twice, before I actually leave.

So, am I a strange traveler?

Hopefully not, or at least not too strange anyway. After all, I do suspect that you may have some odd travel habits yourself and I’d love to hear about them! Perhaps I’m not the only one out there who, only when traveling, spits water at the wall during my showers while pretending that each spit is a new type of missile that at the last minute veers away from its target and as a result, never kills anyone.

On second thought, I probably am the only one who does that.

So let me hear it…what are your strange travel habits?

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  1. Colleen February 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I don’t know if this counts as weird, but the first thing I do in a new room is take out my laundry and hand wash it. There’s something about having all my clothes clean, dripping out and then air drying that makes me feel happy.

    • Earl February 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm - Reply

      Hey Colleen – I would tend to say that’s a bit on the weird side of things 🙂 Although, it probably does make you the cleanest traveler around!

  2. Andi June 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Haha I love your little quirks when traveling!!! I’ll have to think if I have any. I think you need to post a video of you talking in this high feminine pitch of yours… 🙂
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..India: Day 3 (Part 4) =-.

    • Earl June 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      There’s no way such a video will be posted here! Ok, I won’t say ‘never’, but at least not until my Spanish voice rises a couple notches of deepness first.

  3. Dina June 1, 2010 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, this was the last post I read before jump to airplane to NZ, but I didn’t get the chance to comment back then! Love this article, very entertaining to imagine you juggling around the room. And it’s nice to know somebody has habit to rearrange backpack too, even though I’m not as intensive as that (just so it will fit nicely). I wonder whether I have traveling habit like this or not, maybe Ryan will notice something like that from me better than I am. I do have a going out habit, pretty much wherever I am: Go to toilet, drink water, and blow my nose (even when it’s empty!)
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Friday Photo: Flooded Road in Otago, South Island, New Zealand =-.

    • Earl June 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      In that case, I hope you’re having a pleasant return to NZ so far!

      I think that your ‘going out’ habit counts as a ‘strange’ one! Without a doubt. And now that you’ve read the post, you’ll probably start to notice a few others that you didn’t realize before. Or you could just start juggling yourself…

  4. Bessie May 30, 2010 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Hilarious, Earl! Love your juggle & lighting incense ideas. It’s great to have routines like that on the road. I’m the same in needing to sleep under something. If I don’t have a sheet or blanket I’ll throw a sarong or jacket, anything over me. I think it’s totally calming.

    And Kyle does the same thing where his voice goes a higher pitch in other languages I think because most of his language teachers have all been women, so he mimics it. I secretly find it totally delightful.

    Thanks for the post!
    .-= Bessie´s last blog ..How we started our dream, and how you can, too =-.

    • Earl May 31, 2010 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Hey Bessie – That’s good news about Kyle as there is definitely some comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one squeaking away in foreign languages. We’ll have to compare our foreign language voices if we get the chance to meet up during the next month!

  5. floreta May 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    I think the funniest is how your voice changes! I think at least for me, that’s because I’m so unconfident with foreign languages that my already timid voice becomes even more so! I really like the juggling routine you have. Unique and impressive.
    .-= floreta´s last blog ..The Road to Emptiness: Zen Travel =-.

    • Earl May 26, 2010 at 8:40 am - Reply

      Hey Floreta! I bet that a lack of confidence does play a role in the voice changing. It’s as if we’re not exactly sure if the word we’re about to speak is the correct word and so we speak it quietly in the hopes that nobody will notice. But then nobody understands what we’re saying and that doesn’t help either!

      Thanks so much for the comment and I must say, that’s an interesting adventure that you’re in the middle of at the moment, living at the Buddhist monastery. I’ll have read a little more about your experiences…

  6. Jonny | May 25, 2010 at 3:07 am - Reply

    I do miss the packing and repacking.
    .-= Jonny |´s last blog ..Why My First Business Sank Spectacularly And How To Keep Yours From Meeting The Same Watery Fate – Part 1 =-.

    • Earl May 25, 2010 at 7:52 am - Reply

      Hey Jonny – Well, I’m sure you’ll be traveling again at some point…or you could just pack and re-pack at home so that you can relive the experience.

  7. Scott Shigeoka May 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    I definitely do the voice change and toothbrush thing, haha. I think people get weirded out when I walk around with a toothbrush in my hand and then try to facial gesture signs of “hello” to them with toothpaste oozing from the sides of my mouth..I’m going to have to learn how to make proper first impressions with my hostel mates 😀

    Also, I just got into Ecuador and starting my South American travels…blogging all about it on my amateur blog:

    Thanks again for all the inspiration and definitely just read through your “About” page for the billionth time. I promise – in ten years I’m totally going to be a traveling fiend like you!

    .-= Scott Shigeoka´s last blog ..“What I Expect” WSU Study Abroad Prompt #1 =-.

    • Earl May 25, 2010 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Hey Scott – Good to hear that your travels have already begun. And I’m glad I could offer you some inspiration to get you started!

      But I will agree, it’s a lot harder to make friends on the road with the toothpaste dripping all over yourself every morning. And it also makes the traveling a little more expensive when you have to replaced the clothes that end up stained with big globs of Crest.

      Enjoy Ecuador and beyond!

  8. Karen May 22, 2010 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    Very funny and thanks for sharing your ‘uniqueness’. Aren’t you worried that you will lose your juggling coordination if you don’t keep practicing it? 🙂

    Oh, and yes, you are weird – but aren’t we all? 🙂

    Looking forward to your next travel adventure.

    .-= Karen´s last blog ..The Next Step In Finding Meaning For Your Life =-.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      Hey Karen – Haha…I’ve actually been juggling for many years so my ‘skills’ should hopefully be safe for now. Although I’ve never been able to advance past juggling three things at a time, even with all of that practice, so that doesn’t say much either.

      And I think you have the right attitude…we are all weird in our own ways!

      Have a great week Karen.

  9. Carlos May 22, 2010 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I find that some people have different voices and almost different personalities when speaking another language. It’s weird. It’s hard to express yourself like you’d normally in a foreign tongue.

    I’m far funnier in english than I am in Spanish 🙂

    At least I think so.

    • rose May 22, 2010 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Haha! That’s so true!! I speaks 3 languages fluently, and sometimes it makes me feel like I have a split personality – I feel completely different in each language, as if the language’s character itself had a hold on me… Isn’t that strange?!

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Hey Carlos – Have a little more confidence in your Spanish comedic abilities! Actually, every time I make a joke in Spanish myself I feel as if I’ve just done something miraculous (it’s only been about twice so far)…

      I think we have to concentrate so much harder to speak a foreign language that we lose that ‘natural’ ability to communicate. And when that happens, we struggle to figure out how to express ourselves normally again…and the result is unpredictable and often bizarre.

  10. Moon Hussain May 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Earl, so you do your juggling act every day while traveling? You mean, EVERY day?

    Why don’t you try doing that in FL? See how it feels? I didn’t feel good going back to FL, probably the memories associated when growing up. Perhaps your brain associates FL with ‘being home’ and not out and about. So that’s an obvious statement but kind of makes sense…?
    .-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Fun Friday Round-Up: OMG I’m Less Than 3 Weeks From My Move! =-.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Hey Moon – I honestly do the juggling just about every day…maybe skipping a couple of days per month. I’ve tried it here in Florida but I never seem to remember to do it right after I wake up. Instead, I’ll remember a couple of hours later and then it’s just not the same. But when traveling, it’s the first thing I think about when I open my eyes in the morning.

      And your statement does make sense. Every time I see something familiar from my pre-travel days (i.e. my youth), my brain is reminded that I’m not traveling at the moment. And then it’s as if my entire mindset changes!

      Sorry to hear that your trip to FL was disappointing. Hopefully the days ahead will be brighter!

  11. rose May 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Hmmm.. Does travelling around with a cotton kimono with big pink and black hibiscus flowers on it to go from the room to the shared showers count as a strange travel habit? It’s also really useful for hanging out in ridiculously hot countries where the curious hotel staff are always trying to look into the room…

    I definitely identify with the compulsive packing – I always pack the night before, and if there happen to be someone else’s things lying around the room, it somehow deeply affects my peace of mind! On the other hand, as soon as I get a new room somewhere, I absolutely have to unpack at least part of my bag and put certain things in their respective places before I can feel ready to go out and find the nearest food stand.

    I generally travel with an airline company blanket or a nice cozy shawl to sleep with in very hot places… Somehow I find it comforting even if there is only a tiny corner of it actually draped over me most of the night; a reassuring weight.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      Hey Rose – Yes, I think traveling with a kimono qualifies as a strange travel habit! And I like the idea of unpacking a little whenever you get to a new room in order to feel a bit more comfortable. What kind of things do you have to put in place before you can head out?

      • rose May 24, 2010 at 9:02 pm - Reply

        Well, I generally allow myself to carry around one or two things that are not essential but make me feel at home wherever I am… sometimes that is a colourful bedsheet, which makes any room look more cheerful (and allows you to ignore unsightly stains on mattresses and bedsheets), so then I pull that out right away! Otherwise, I always pull out reading & writing materials and put them on or near the bed, as well as any other creative stuff I might be carrying around, so that I know as soon as I come back I can delve into them. I also have a very small (1cm high) little ganesha carved out of topaz, and gifted to me by a friend on my first solo travel, that I like to carry around… he is, after all, the god of new beginnings!

        Do you have any things that you carry around with you just because they make you feel better, even though they may not be very useful?

        • Earl May 25, 2010 at 7:35 am - Reply

          I always carry around some incense because a pleasant aroma can turn a somewhat nasty budget room into something a little more pleasant. That could be considered useful I guess but not fully necessary. Apart from that, everything I travel with these days is generally useful as I aim to keep my backpack as light as possible as at all times!

  12. Raam Dev May 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Earl this was hilarious!

    I think it might be too early for me to figure out if I’ve got any travel habits (it’s only been a little over two months), but I can definitely relate to walking around while brushing teeth and tapping the beat to an imaginary song when I’m feeling a little nervous (although I use my fingers).

    As for sleeping under a blanket… I think I do the exact opposite when I’m traveling: I can’t stand sleeping underneath anything when I’m not at home. I guess it’s the thought that the blankets/sheets might not be clean and I’d hate to be trapped underneath them with bugs/grime/whatever.

    And as for packing, I always pack the day of and only once. 🙂 It’s so nice having so few things. When I checked into my hotel here in Mumbai early this morning, the clerk asked me if I was going to get my luggage. I smiled and told him “it’s just my backpack”.
    .-= Raam Dev´s last blog ..Video: Always Live Mindful and Conscious =-.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Hey Raam – That’s quite a funny story as well! I can imagine how surprised the hotel staff must have been. Unless you’re staying at an ultra-budget hotel in India that is used to foreigners, you’re going to seem like one strange person if all you have is one small pack.

      And your theory on using blankets while traveling clearly makes a lot more sense than mine and I wish I could stay away from all the nastiness that I climb into each night. But I just can’t do it no matter how many times I try.

      Enjoy Udaipur my friend! And let us know if you you develop any other strange happens during your trip…

  13. Jennifer Barry May 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    @Liz: Coke does taste different! I loved it in South America because I got a glass bottle and real sugar. It even has fewer calories.

    @Osborne: Mexicans do have a thing about midgets/little people. I’ve never seen that but I did watch the finals of Latin American Idol when I was in Panama. I’ve never seen the US version.
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Cool People Wanted =-.

    • Osborne May 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Jennifer I must agree with you the coke in South America is truly the best I have ever tasted. The use of real cane sugar is what makes it so great.


  14. Jennifer Barry May 21, 2010 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I always turn on the TV just because I can. I don’t have it at home. If I’m in a foreign country I like to see what kinds of shows they have and what the news is like (if I can understand it).

    I also compulsively read everything in the hotel room, like the hotel guide book and all the signs. Ok, I draw the line at the phone book 🙂
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Tigers, Tea and Technology =-.

    • Liz May 21, 2010 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Hi Jennifer,

      That is sooo funny! I do the same with the TV and the hotel info! I watch the TV even if it is in a language I can’t understand, just because I find it so interesting to see what they watch (show quality, etc).

      Other weird habits:
      – I taste Coca Cola in every country, as they do taste different.
      – I use to go to every McDonalds to see what other burgers they had (not anymore, now I am healthier).


      • Osborne May 21, 2010 at 11:41 am - Reply

        As far as TV. I try to find Mexican Midget Wrestling sometimes just because it is hilarious to watch and even though I don’t have a clue as to what is being said the announcers yelling at everyone is amazing. Foreign language tv programs are great. It makes it even better if they are very poorly subtitled – it raises the comedy value exponentially.


        • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm - Reply

          Hey Osborne – Interesting indeed. I don’t think I ever came across the Midget Wrestling during my stay in Mexico! I’ll have to look a little more closely the next time I’m there as I can only imagine what it must be like to see such a thing.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Hey Jennifer – Thanks for sharing your ‘strange’ habits! I wonder what’s the strangest television show you’ve come across during your trips abroad??

      • Jennifer Barry May 23, 2010 at 8:45 pm - Reply

        Hmm, well I once saw parts of this weird movie Policía Demoledor about this cyborg lady police officer. I think it was a cheap ripoff of Robocop 🙂
        .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Tigers, Tea and Technology =-.

        • Earl May 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm - Reply

          By ‘I once saw parts’ do you mean that you turned it off after a couple of minutes because it was so bad?! I’ve found that cheap ripoffs, especially those in other languages, can often be oddly entertaining, or at least slightly amusing, in ways probably not intended by the creators…

          • Jennifer Barry May 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

            It was definitely unintentionally amusing! It was just too long for me to sit and watch the whole thing – I wanted to leave my hotel room and explore 🙂
            .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Panama: Gateway to the World, Part 3 =-.

  15. Financial Samurai May 21, 2010 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Don’t worry Earl, I walk around brushing my teeth too! It’s called being efficient! 🙂

    Welcome back to America!
    .-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The Emergency Fund Fallacy =-.

    • Earl May 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm - Reply

      Hey Sam – That’s good thinking! From this point on I’ll refer to this ‘skill’ as one of efficiency. And I’m thrilled to know I’m not the only one doing this!

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